Returning From Vacation Doesn't Ensure Less Stress, New Fierce Survey Finds

Venice cruising Editorial Use Only Copyright by Susan J Young Europe cruise
A vacation, such as one to Venice, can bring moments of fun and relaxation but a recent survey shows that stress returns with the return to work.

While consumers may have a fabulous vacation on a cruise, tour, city hotel stay, independent trip or all-inclusive resort stay, for some Americans, it's not necessarily a guarantee of a refreshed mindset at the office after the vacation is over.  

In its recent survey of more than 1,000 full-time American workers who receive paid time off (PTO), Fierce, Inc., a leadership development firm, discovered some interesting revelations about the "return to work" experience.

Post-Vacation Can Be Stressful: Two thirds of respondents in the Fierce study noted that they are either more stressed or have the same level of stress upon returning to their work office as they did before they went on vacation. 

The main cause of this stress is catching up on missed work, followed by having to readjust to a work mindset and needing to resolve major issues that arose while away. In addition, while on vacation, half of all employees check in with the office, with 13 percent checking in daily. 

There has been no change in the reported stress level upon returning from PTO since Fierce asked this same question of employees five years ago, indicating that post-vacation stress continues to be a concern.

The employee's current level of job satisfaction, though, definitely makes a difference. Thirty-eight percent of those unsatisfied with work feel more stressed returning from vacation. In contrast, only 14 percent of those who are very satisfied with their job say they feel that way. 

"PTO is a key benefit for any full-time employee, and one that most individuals take to heart, as it is an essential component to striking a healthy work-life balance,” says Stacey Engle, Fierce's executive vice president of marketing.

“The fact that returning back to work is a stressful situation speaks volumes to the lack of support many employees feel both leading up to, and upon returning from PTO," she emphasizes, adding that it's an issue all organizations should address.

Engle says the goal should be to ensure employees get the most from their vacation time, return refreshed and ready to tackle what’s ahead.

Time Off Varies Widely: Nearly a third of those surveyed (28 percent) said they'd taken only three days or less off consecutively over the past year. Another third said they took off a full five days. Only one in 10 said they'd taken 10 or more consecutive days off for vacation.

While more than 20 days of annual vacation is the norm for most respondents (31 percent), one in every five employees received less than 10 days of PTO each year.

Age, tenure and company size played a large role here. The lower the ranks, the less vacation is typically provided. 

Income also makes a difference in how much vacation employees take. For example, 44 percent of those making $50,000 or less per household annually took three or fewer days consecutive PTO days, while more than 80 percent of those making $100,000 took more than three days.

About a quarter of all those surveyed took off five work days, a standard work week for many.  

Co-Workers Can Be Less Than Supportive: Being allotted PTO days is one thing, but receiving the support and encouragement to take those days is something else entirely, Fierce stresses. 

The good news? Two-thirds of respondents believe their both their managers support and encourage them to take time off. That's positive. 

However, only 40 percent of respondents said their co-workers are supportive and encourage them to take time off. So an employee taking PTO shouldn't assume co-workers are going to be happy even if the PTO is fairly earned and the vacation deeply deserved.

For those unsatisfied with their current job, 56 percent say no one encourages them or supports them taking PTO. But only 18 percent of employees who are very satisfied with their job feel the same way.

Pay matters too. Some 44 percent of individuals in households making $50,000 or less a year say no one encourages them to take vacation. Just 30 percent of those making $100,000 or more say the same. 

Impact of PTO on Loyalty: PTO is a key benefit for many employees, so business owners, managers and supervisors should take note. Just over half, 56 percent, of respondents told Fierce that additional PTO would make them more loyal to an organization, with the other half not seeing it as a factor.

This shifts, however, when taking age, position and tenure into account. The majority of those who are younger, in more entry level positions and less tenured are receiving less PTO. They say additional PTO would increase their sense of loyalty to their organization.

“While offering high number of vacation days isn’t possible for every organization, these results clearly show that for those receiving fewer days, upping this number could make a big difference in overall satisfaction,” continued Engle.

“This is a key area where open and honest conversations are key," she said. "Employees need to feel empowered to ask for what they need, and managers must be open to hearing concerns of these employees."

While it may not end in an extra week's vacation, Engle said the dialogue and mutual understanding will be beneficial in the long run for both individual employees and the company at large.

Additional Key Findings: The Fierce study also had other revelations of interest to business owners and managers. 

The majority (44 percent) of those surveyed said the ideal number of annual PTO days would be 20 or more days. Those 18-29, however, noted that their ideal number of vacations days would be 16-20, less than those in older generations.

Can't get enough vacation? That's true for 15 percent of respondents who say they'd love to take unlimited vacation each year, up five percent from the 2012 survey. ·  

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